Late-season road woes lead Minnesota Vikings to miss playoffs -- again

The Minnesota Vikings spent the offseason addressing the issues that put them in a 3-8 tailspin last season after a 5-0 start. They added three new starters to their offensive line, parted ways with franchise tailback Adrian Peterson and doubled down on their talented defense. Was it enough to produce something better than last year's 8-8 finish? Let's take a look.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 11, vs. New Orleans Saints, 7:10 p.m. ET

U.S Bank Stadium will be abuzz amid the return of Peterson, who signed with the Saints and will no doubt be motivated to prove the Vikings made a mistake in releasing him. If you're a fantasy owner, pick Peterson. If you're betting the game, take the Vikings. Their defense will stand up in the end against the Saints' otherwise explosive offense. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m. ET

The Vikings haven't won in Pittsburgh in 22 years. Go ahead and make it 23. This is a tough task on the road against a team that is a true Super Bowl contender. It will be particularly tough for the Vikings to score on the Steelers' defense. The weather and field conditions should be decent, but a win here would be a major upset. Record: 1-1.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

The Bucs are getting plenty of hype as a team ready to make a big leap, but the Vikings' pass defense is well-equipped to slow them down. Can they score enough on Tampa Bay's underrated defense? Probably. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, vs. Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have won two of their past three games in Minnesota, a notable turn of events after losing 15 of their previous 16 at either the Metrodome or TCF Bank Stadium. The teams are relatively evenly matched in 2017, so the projection here is that they will split home-and-home games. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Monday, Oct. 9, at Chicago Bears, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Vikings have lost eight of their past nine games at Soldier Field, and it has been 25 years since they've won a Monday night game in Chicago. For reasons not always supported by rational analysis, the Vikings are never a good pick against the Bears away from Minnesota -- especially at night. Record: 3-2.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET

The worse nightmare of Vikings fans is seeing the Packers play in Super Bowl LII, to be played in Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium. They'll get a preview in Week 6. This is the best Packers team since the franchise went 15-1 in 2011. Record: 3-3

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

This is the type of game a team that with playoff aspirations must win: at home against an opponent that by all projections will limp through an injury-plagued season. It shouldn't take too many points for the Vikings to overcome the Ravens. Record: 4-3

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, at Cleveland Browns (London), 9:30 a.m. ET

The Vikings are only a few years removed from winning a game in London -- 2013 against the Steelers -- so the overseas trip won't be as disruptive as it could have been. They also drew, shall we say, a favorable opponent. Record: 5-3

Week 9: Bye week

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET

Although they'll have a bye week to recover from London, and rest for the remainder of the season, the Vikings will have a tough time in this matchup. They've lost their past two games in Washington. Record: 5-4

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET

Returning for their first home game in a month, the Vikings should be able to hold off a Rams team that is going to have growing pains under new coach Sean McVay. The return of center John Sullivan, drafted by the Vikings in 2008, won't be enough to propel the Rams. Record: 6-4.

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 23, at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ET

As noted earlier, the even nature of this matchup suggests a home-and-home split. This is the Lions' turn. They've won on Thanksgiving Day in four consecutive years, including in 2016 against the Vikings. Record: 6-5

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

At this early date, it's difficult to see the Vikings going to the new stadium of the defending NFC champion and winning. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will score more points against the Vikings defense than Sam Bradford will against the Falcons.' Record: 6-6

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET

The Vikings will drop their second consecutive game at an NFC South opponent. That will cap a disastrous three-game road trip that will put their chances for the playoffs in serious jeopardy. Record: 6-7

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET

The playoff push will begin in earnest at home against a beatable Bengals team that won't be up to the challenge. The Vikings will pull back to .500 with a convincing victory. Record: 7-7

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 23, at Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. ET

This game will set up as a must-win in order to make the playoffs, but the Vikings won't be able to get it done. The Packers will be in the midst of a push for the NFC's top seed and will be in a commanding position at home and in prime time. Record: 7-8

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, vs. Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

In a season mop-up for both teams, the Vikings will put forth more effort for their home fans to avoid a losing season. They'll finish at .500 for the second consecutive year, missing the playoffs for the third time in the four-year Mike Zimmer era. Record: 8-8